Larry Hodges' Blog and Tip of the Week will normally go up on Mondays by 1:00 PM USA Eastern time. Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of  eight books and over 1900 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio. (Larry was awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award in July, 2018.)
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Coaching Committee, but the views he shares in his blog are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of USA Table Tennis.

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!
Also out - Table Tennis TipsMore Table Tennis Tips, and Still More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, 2014-2016, and 2017-2020, with 150 Tips in each!

Or, for a combination of Tales of our sport and Technique articles, try Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
If you are in the mood for inspirational fiction, The Spirit of Pong is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, trains with the spirits of past champions, and faces betrayal and great peril as he battles for glory but faces utter defeat. Read the First Two Chapters for free!

July 29, 2019

Tip of the Week
Do You Want to Know an Opponent's Rating Before a Match?

The Subconscious Rules
At the U.S. Open a few weeks ago a strange thing happened. I was mostly there to coach, but entered one event - Over 40 Hardbat. (I've now won the event six times at the Open or Nationals.) I normally play and coach with sponge, but hardbat's been a sideline of mine for decades. (I've won Hardbat Singles at both the Open and Nationals, and have won Hardbat Doubles 14 times.) I'm 59, so I'm competing against these younger players (!), and I'm both out of practice and out of shape. In the preliminary RR, I played okay, but nothing special.

In the final I'm up against Mark Conti, a full-time hardbat player with a 2113 hardbat rating. (I'm 2198.) He's a steady blocker. I continue to play well as I win the first, 21-15. (It's best of three to 21.) In the second, he gets more and more consistent and is getting better and better at blocking balls at wide angles, making things tricky for me - I'm basically an all-out forehand attacker. Against this consistency and movement, I begin to falter, and he wins, 21-14. I know I'll have to play much better in the third if I want to win. I also realize that if consciously try to play better, I'll probably just fall apart. The conscious mind is great for thinking about tactics or what serve to use next, but in skill sports, you train your subconscious, and it takes over once you start to play. The conscious mind just gets in the way.

So I started this "mantra" between each point where I kept saying, "Push yourself!" (I've used this my entire career.) This not only helped me physically as I tried to cover as much table with my forehand as I could, but it kept my conscious mind focused on that, while the subconscious took over. Result? I played one of the best games I've ever played, winning the third, 21-13. Mark played well that game, but I was basically forehand hitting and smashing every ball I could get to, and even my backhand came alive. The Magic was Back!

What do I mean by "The Magic"? It's my way of referring to being "In the Zone." (See the article on this below by Eli Baraty.) Everyone has different ways of getting In the Zone. It often comes down to a simple routine that cues the subconscious that it's time to do its stuff, i.e. mental rehearsal. For me, this means the following:

  • Just before I start a match I take off my watch and put it around my water bottle.
  • Before every serve I bounce the ball several times on the table, and then drop my arm down and bring it back and then forward, like a pendulum.
  • Before my first receive in a match, I step back from the table and do a very fast series of shuffle steps.
  • In my early years I even had this thing about shirt colors. If I had a match where I knew I was going to be hitting a lot, I'd wear a green shirt. If I was going to be looping a lot, I'd wear a blue shirt. If I had to play all-around, I'd wear a red shirt. I'd sometimes change for specific matches! (I only did this in my first few years.)

Training your subconscious and then letting it take over is the key to doing well in any skill sport. An easy example of this is when I smack targets on a table as a demo. I can put a water bottle on the far side, and then drop a ball and smack it pretty consistently with my forehand. But this only works if I don't think about it and don't even consciously aim - if I do, I get erratic. If I just look at what I want to hit and then let the shot go, I get a bullseye nearly every time - and when I don't, it's almost always because I let the conscious mind get in the way.

This type of thing applies to other things as well. I just got back from my annual nine-day writing science fiction writing workshop in Manchester, NH. The topic of the subconscious came up there, and writers also get "In the Zone" where they are almost mindlessly writing. One of the writers was a musician and pointed out that it's the same thing in music - a concert pianist doesn't consciously play complex pieces; they train at it until it comes subconsciously. For me, I've developed the nasty habit that either a Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper gets me in science fiction writing mode, and so I drink too many soft drinks. (Mr. Pibb and Mello Yellow are also good!)

I also have this long-term thinking "crutch" - anyone who's been around me a lot may have noticed that when I have to think about something very hard, I always pick up a pen. It's just a habit I picked up way back in college, and it cues the subconscious brain to go into high gear. In fact, when I'm brainstorming for ideas in both my table tennis and science fiction writing, I often pace back and forth in my office, pen in hand - and it invariably works!

So how does any of this apply to you? Develop your own habits that "cue" the subconscious, both for table tennis and other activities. It's called mental rehearsal. If you do it regularly, you'll train your subconscious to react from these cues. (Here are links to articles and books on Sports Psychology.)

How I Spent My Vacation
I had a great two weeks vacation! Here's a rundown:

  • Attended the Readercon Science Fiction Convention in Boston.
  • Did sightseeing in Boston for four days. Did the Freedom Trail, and visited the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Museum of Science, Museum of Fine Arts, USS Constitution and Bunker Hill, Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, Bunker Hill Monument, Boston Commons, Franklin Park Zoo, New England Aquarium, and Revere Beach (but the water was too cold, even in summer, so I just walked the beach). 
  • Spent nine days at "The Never-Ending Odyssey," my annual science fiction writing workshop vacation. Three of my stories were critiqued, we attended classes every afternoon, did readings, and of course wrote! 

I've been away for three weeks, so rather than link repetitively to every news item I find of interest, why not browse over these?

7 Benefits of Table Tennis
Here's the chart. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Perhaps put it up at your club's website?

New from Tom Lodziak

New from Eli Baraty

New from Samson Dubina

New from Coach Jon

Ultimate Table Tennis League
Here's the article by EmRatThich.

History of USATT - Volume 23 - Chapter 1
Here is Chapter 1 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, subtitled "1997 U.S. Open - Part 1." Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 23 is 491 pages with 1841 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1997-1999 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

The Un-Returnable Serve by Patrick Franziska!
Here's the video (10 sec). Could this revolutionize the sport or force rule changes? I can do "come-back" serves somewhat consistently, and occasionally have done one like the one in the video, where it barely crosses the net before bouncing back. But I wonder if anyone could learn to do it this short with any consistency. (I know some players have tried - including me!)

Milpitas Table Tennis Star Gears Up for Tokyo Olympics
Here's the article and video (2:11) featuring Kanak Jha.

Sharon Alguetti Multiball Training in China 2019
Here's the video (5:23).

A Little Multiball
Here's the video (16 sec) - at that age moving like that is fun!

She’s 14, Disabled From a Bomb Blast and One of Iraq’s Top Table Tennis Players
Here's the article from the New York Times.

I Am Michiel
Here's the video (8:18), "a film about a boy who wants to become a professional table tennis player."

Golden Tate Attempts Table Tennis Against an Olympian
Here's the video (11:18) from Yahoo. He gets schooled by Wei Wang. (He's a wide receiver for the New York Giants football team.)

Corey Coleman takes on the B/R Ping Pong Challenge
Here's the video (34:17) "Watch as host Adam Lefkoe takes on Cleveland Browns rookie WR Corey Coleman in a whacky ping pong challenge." Various rules/rackets that come up include "One-Eyed Pirate," "Incredible Hulk Hands," Thor's Hammer," and "Giant Badminton Racquet."

Whaaaaat - Table Tennis in a Tree!
Here's the video (1:52). "Tree TT is very dangerous and should only be played by true TT stunt professionals who know what they are doing!!!"

Z Pong
Here's the video (2 min)!

Twenty-Foot Paddle Toss Serve
Here's the video (16 sec)!

Funny Fake Hole Ping-Pong Paddle
Here's where you can buy one from Zazzle!

Area 51 Two-handed Alien Pong
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)  

New from Pongfinity

Send us your own coaching news!

July 8, 2019

Next Blog
I'll be out of town July 13-28, so the next blog will be Monday, July 29 Tuesday, July 30. I'm on vacation!!! Early on Saturday morning (July 13) I drive up to Boston (seven hours) for the last 1.5 days of Readercon, a big science fiction convention. Then I spend Mon-Thur (July 15-18) touring Boston - Freedom Trail, USS Constitution and Bunker Hill, New England Aquarium, Franklin Park Zoo, Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Science, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, and perhaps a stop at Revere Beach. (I was thinking of visiting the local TT clubs, but there are too many and I don't want to insult the ones I don't visit.) Then, from July 19-27, I'm in "The Never-Ending Odyssey," my annual nine-day science fiction writing workshop in Manchester, NH, an hour from Boston - I've been going regularly since 2006. See you all in a few weeks!

Tip of the Week
Take the Shot.

USA Nationals
Let's start with the results - here they are! There are also lots of articles on the tournament - see USATT News and some of the Steve Hopkins articles below. Here are highlights of the Men's Final, Kanak Jha vs. Nikhil Kumar (5:58), and the Women's Final, Lily Zhang vs. Rachel Sung (5:09). Here are write-ups by Matt Hetherington, Kanak Jha defeated Nikhil Kumar and Lily Zhang defeated Rachel Sung. Since I was coaching all day, I didn't see many of the big matches, other than these two finals.

It was a crazy week for me. I won Over 40 Hardbat (6th time), got an Appreciation Award from USATT, and experienced my second and third earthquakes - the latter just before I was to go out and accept the award. I spent most of the week coaching the Maryland kids, whose results could best be described as a sine wave, but with some great matches. The temperatures broke 100F every day, but it was nice and cool in the playing hall. Then I spent a day at the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon!

With 105 events, some may have missed Event #74, Over 40 Hardbat, the true feature event of the tournament (of course). Mark Conti made me work very hard in the final, blocking me side to side in the best of three to 21, and he won game two. But I played one of the best games of my life (at age 59!), attacking relentlessly and smashing every chance to win game three and the match, 15,-14,13. I'm normally a sponge player and coach, but as readers here know, I play hardbat on the side, and at the Nationals and Open have won Hardbat Singles twice and Hardbat Doubles fourteen times. Alas, due to coaching conflicts, Over 40 Hardbat was the only event I entered this time.

Some might think a tactical player like me would play more "tactically" rather than attack and smash so much, but they miss the tactical situation - my best hardbat game is when I tactically do everything I can to set up my forehand. If I played a more balanced game, I'd have a lot of decent techniques but nothing that would challenge the really good players. By centering my entire hardbat game around forehand hitting, I end up with a huge threat to any opponent, as well as weaknesses - but I use tactics to not only set up the forehand, but to hide the weaknesses, such as a rather weak backhand (where I chop about half the time).

But I was mostly at the Nationals to coach players from the HW Global Foundation's Talent Development Program, which is the junior program at MDTTC. I'm one of their regular coaches. They had raised $12,000 to pay for six coaches to go to the Nationals and coach their junior players. Here's a daily rundown.

I caught a flight at Dulles Airport at 5:15AM, transferring at Denver, and arrived in Las Vegas around 9AM (noon my time - three-hour time difference), the hotel at 10:30AM (rooming with Cheng Yinghua), and the playing hall at noon, just in time to coach (along with Wang Qingliang) the Minicadet Boys' Team from Maryland, with the longish name MDTTC/HW Global Foundation (Stanley Hsu, Mu Du, Ryan Lee), which started at 12:30PM. They went 3-0 in the preliminary group and won their quarterfinal match before losing in the semifinals to the top-seeded team that included Nandan Naresh and Daniel Tran. I also practiced with some of our players, getting them ready for tomorrow. That night I went to the Mandalay Bay Shark Aquarium. Alas, it was getting late so the kids couldn't go, so I went alone. Lots of sharks that swim around you in glass-walled rooms, plus a huge Komodo Dragon, a crocodile, two huge pythons, lots of crazy and often giant fish, a jellyfish tank, stringrays, lionfish, a huge pufferfish, an octopus, and much more.

For most of the tournament, I was in charge of coaching Ryan Lee (about 1950) and Todd Klinger (rated 1665, but recently over 1800), though I also coached Mu Du, Stephanie Zhang, and Ryan Lin at times. I'm not going to go into details of their play other than to say that their play is often a sine wave, but with some great play. For the tournament, Todd knocked off his first 2000+ player, beating a 2001 player three straight, but ironically went into the match thinking he was playing the lowest in the group, rated about 1100! Later he would beat a 2100 player, but he'd also have several bad losses when he played down to opponents. Ryan knocked off a series of players over 2050, but in matches I didn't see, had some bad losses as well. (Sine wave!)

Just before the Nationals I'd had a root canal (yikes!), and they had put in a temporary crown while the permanent one was made from a mold - they are putting it in this afternoon at 3:30PM. But while coaching Ryan Lee in a match this afternoon, the temporary crown came off! This exposes the nerves underneath, and any type of eating or drinking is painful. The dentist had told me if this happens that toothpaste can be used as a temporary cement. Since Ryan was playing an 1100 player and won the first easily, he said he'd be fine in the match, so I ran back to my hotel room and re-attached the crown with the toothpaste. Todd's mom made a few phone calls and found a dentist for me, and made an appointment for 8AM on Tuesday.

That night I attended the USATT Umpire and Referee Seminar, run by Wendell Dillon from 6PM to roughly 7:45PM, with 18 attendees. I've run 207 USATT tournaments, but this year have handed over the reins to Klaus Wood and Greg Mascialini. However, when referee Stephen Yeh is not there or is umpiring a match, I become the Acting Referee, so I though this would be a helpful seminar - and it was! But when someone asked me why I attended, I said, "Because I'm in Las Vegas and have nothing better to do."

I ubered over to the dentist early that morning, and was in the dentist chair shortly after 8AM. She re-attached the temporary crown more properly, and I was out by 8:40AM, and also out $212. I was back at the playing hall at 9AM and coaching at 9:45AM. The highlight of the day, besides Todd beating the 2100 player, or rather the craziest thing that happened to me was a player accused me of coaching Todd during points!!! It's now legal to coach between points, but coaching during a point would be crazy and non-productive, and I didn't do it and never have or will - it would just distract the player, who couldn't react to anything I said anyway. That night I attended the USATT Tournament Directors and Club Leaders and Meet the CEO Gala, 7-8:45PM, with about 30 attendees. I was asked about the Regionalization Plan I'd worked on before, and promised to send it to CEO Virginia Sung. (I did so yesterday.)

Ryan came down with an ear infection, which not only hurt but made him tired. So he had to drop out of two events and see a doctor. (It was up in the air whether he'd be able to play the next day, but he was able to.) So I mostly coached Todd that day. That night I attended two meetings. First was the Meet the High Performance Director and High Performance Committee meeting (about 40 attendees), where they played a video highlighting Team USA this year, and answered questions. There was much discussion about the USATT team selectin process. After that meeting we had a USATT Coaching Committee meeting. I had been the chair for two years (and previously for four years in the 1990s), but had stepped down earlier this year, but agreed to stay on the committee. Attending were HPD Joerg Bitzigeio; the new coaching chair, Pieke Franssen, and members Gao Jun, Dave Fullen, and myself. Stellan Bengtsson, who is also on the committee, was unable to attend. We mostly went over the planned USATT Coaching Education and Certification plans that Joerge and I have been working on the last 1.5 years, though he's taken the lead on it.

On Thursday morning I experienced my second earthquake. I'd been in one in Santa Barbara maybe 15 years ago while visiting my parents. As I was watching Ryan Lee play his match, the whole building began shaking for about ten seconds! It was a 6.4 earthquake centered in Ridgecrest, CA, about 200 miles away. Some ran about warning us to not stand under light fixtures in case they fell.

We also pulled off a great prank this day. Several of our top juniors and I decided to make it our goal to convince the two youngest players in our contingent, both nine, that I had defeated Kanak Jha the night before in the Men's Singles Quarterfinals. The kids were great as they congratulated me on the match, even with details (apparently I flip-killed in Kanak's serve at deuce in the seventh, and Kanak couldn't handle my serves). We convinced them! They were so impressed by how good Coach Hodges still was as a player! Then one of them asked me who I played in the semifinals, and I wasn't sure, so I guessed Kai Zhang - which turned out to be correct (at least for Kanak). But they wanted to find out who and when I played next, so they went to the Men's Singles draw sheet, and that's when the cat came out of the bag.

That night I attended the USATT Hall of Fame Banquet, hosted by HoF President Sean O'Neill. This year's inductees were Michael Ralston, Li Zhenshi, and Sharon Frant Brooks, with Richard Hicks getting the Mark Matthews Lifetime Achievement Award. For the tenth year in a row I did the Hall of Fame Program Booklet. (Here's last year's, when I won the Lifetime Achievement Award.)

This was one of the craziest days ever. First, I won Over Hardbat, as noted above. Then I was told to get ready to receive the USATT Appreciation Award! First they played the Women's Final, where Lily Zhang defeated Rachel Sung to win her fifth Women's Singles Title. Then they had a contest where spectators threw foam hockey pucks at a trash can set on the main table, and if anyone could get a basket, he/she would get a USATT Lifetime Membership! Sure enough, one man did.

And then I lined up behind Dennis Taylor to receive my award - and that's when it happened - another earthquake! This time it was 7.1, about five times as strong as the previous one, also centered in Ridgecrest, CA. This time the place shook for about 20 seconds, and stronger than before. The lighting fixtures in the ceiling were really shaking this time! (I'm sure there's no connection between my award and the earthquake, right?) After things settled down, Dennis went out and said nice things about me, and gave me the plaque. It says, "Larry's Table Tennis Expertise, Insight, And Contributions Are Greatly Appreciated By Each Director On The Board And Every Member Of The Association. Few People Have As Much Passion, Drive, And Willingness To Push Table Tennis Forward As Larry. Thank You!" -2019 USATT Board of Directors

I gave a short speech, thanking them and mentioning my 300 years of USATT service. I then gave a short history lesson - the USA Nationals started in 1976, and this was the 44th; the U.S. Open started in 1931, and there had been 88, exactly twice as many as Nationals, a total of 132. (Many called the U.S. Open before 1976 "The Nationals," so there's some semantic problems here, but let's not get into that.) I've now been to 75 of them (including every Open and Nationals starting in 1984), as well as 43 consecutive North American Teams (previously called U.S. Open Teams) starting in 1976. Then I asked all first-timers at the Nationals to stand or raise their hands, and invited them to come back. Then, since I started in 1976, the year I joined USATT, I asked all those who were USATT members in 1975 or before to stand, and there was a group. I pointed out that, to them, I was just some new guy! (Standees included Mal Anderson, Wendell Dillon, Bowie & Melba Martin, Patty Martinez, Si Wasserman, and others.)

Then it was off to the Men's Final, where Kanak Jha defeated Nikhil Kumar for the second year in a row, to win his record fourth consecutive title. Afterwards I told him the story of the prank above, about my "beating" him in the quarterfinals, which he thought was funny. 

There are always a lot of tactical things going on in a tournament. Some recurring ones this time included:

  • Most opponents seemed to come in two types - those where you attacked all three spots (wide backhand, wide forehand, and elbow/middle), and those where you mostly attacked two of those spots, and stayed away from the other. There are also some players where you mostly pin them down on one of these spots. This will likely become an eventual Tip of the Week.
  • In most matches, we focused on third-ball serves, with occasional surprise "trick" serves. But there were also a few matches where we threw every serve at an opponent. That doesn't work as well at the higher levels, as many "trick" serves are easy to attack once the opponent gets used to them.
  • There was some focus on positioning after the serve. One player tended to stand too close to the table, another too centered, thereby taking his forehand out of play.
  • There were several matches that were won with simple angled received into the backhand, taking away the opponent's forehand.
  • Mental focus was the single most important thing that led to success. 

I have been told that I visited the Grand Canyon 58 years ago, when I was one, but somehow I do not recall this. So while everyone else flew home on Friday, I stayed an extra day. It was expensive - $432 - but I got 5:50 hotel pickup, we stopped to see Hoover Dam, then, after a three-hour bus trip, I spent four hours at the Grand Canyon. Included was a helicopter trip through the Grand Canyon (my first helicopter ride!), a boat ride down the Colorado River at the bottom, the Skywalk (walking over a glass floor 4000 feet over the canyon), and lots of scenic views. I also visited the Hualapai Tribe site, where I had lunch and toured ancient housing and other exhibits. Then came the three-hour ride back, and I caught an 11:15PM direct flight back to Maryland, arriving Sunday morning around 7AM. I took one look at my todo list and collapsed into bed for a few more hours before going to work. 

Table Tennis Books by Larry Hodges
Yep, this is one of those periodic postings where I ask you to support a poor (relative to Jeff Bezos), starving (I had a small breakfast and it's past lunchtime) table tennis writer by buying my books! Below are my table tennis books that are currently sold on Amazon; here are all my books, including science fiction. 

Australian Open
Here's the home page for the event held July 9-14 in Geelong, Australia. Preliminaries start today!

Korean Open
Here's the home page for the event held July 2-7 in Busan, Korea, with results, articles, pictures, and video.

News Items
Since I've been away two weeks, rather than compile every single link, why not browse these news sources? There's lots in them on the USA Nationals!

New from Steve Hopkins - he's been writing up a storm!

New from Samson Dubina

New from Tom Lodziak

New from Coach Jon

New from EmRatThich

How Olympians Train Their Brains to Become Mentally Tough

Here's the article. "For any athlete to deliver a gold medal performance, mental toughness is an essential ingredient. But what exactly is mental toughness — and how does an athlete develop it?"

Pan Am and US Nationals Journey
Here's the article by Rachel Sung.

Table Tennis in Mauritius
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Florida State University Hosting ISET Coaching Certification
Here's the article from NCTTC.

PingSkiller in London United by Table Tennis
Here's the video (5:19). "Take a look at this great video produced by PingSkiller Kathrin.  I think it captures some of the beauty of Table Tennis.  The ability to play it almost anywhere and with a group of people of all abilities and interests... and even strangers."

Lily Zhang Multiball
Here's the video (39 sec).

Fan Zhendong Slowmo Shots
Here's the video (6:39).

Ma Long Interview
Here's the video (60 sec) - "I can recall more than 90% of my matches."

Good Omens Table Tennis
Did you see the recent Amazon Mini-Series Good Omens? It's six episodes, each a little over 50 minutes, about an angel and demon who are best friends and decide to try and stop the Apocalypse. If you go through it all (I did, it's great!) you get to catch one instance of a table tennis set! From the IMDB trivia page, "Terry Pratchett famously included several humorous footnotes in most of his novels. Neil Gaiman attempted to include as many of the Good Omens footnotes as possible in the show as Easter eggs. An example is the table tennis set which belongs to the Chattering Order of Saint Beryl."

Kung Pong!
Here's the page where you can buy this and other interesting paddles. Now if they would only sell these with $80 tensor sponges!

Scorching Ping-Pong Girls
Here's the picture!

A Different Game
Here's the comic!

Synchronized Table Tennis
Here's the video (2:51)!

David Goffin Playing Table Tennis with Household Objects at Wimbledon
Here's the video (3:28)! He's the world #23 tennis player from Belgium, formerly world #7.

Behind-the-Back Smash
Here's the video (16 sec) of Scott Preiss. This is the ONLY table tennis trick I can't do - my shoulder is too tight!!!

Bottle Cap Challenge Trick Shots
Here's the video (1:48) from Pongfinity!

Subway Pong
Here's the video (11 sec) - train on a train!

Send us your own coaching news!

June 24, 2019

Tip of the Week
Learning to Win.

No Blog Next Week, July 1
I'll be away at the U.S. Nationals - see next segment.

USA Nationals
Here's the home page for the event coming up June 30 - July 5 in Las Vegas. Here's the player listing (755) by Name and by Event. Here's where they will post Results. I'll be there, primarily coaching as one of the five MDTTC coaches. (We have an even 20 MDTTC players flying across the country for the event.) I'm also playing in one event - Over 40 Hardbat on Friday, July 5. (I'm primarily a sponge player and coach, but play hardbat as well - and I've won this event five times at the Nationals or Open, along with Hardbat Singles twice, and Hardbat Doubles 14 times!) I'll also be attending a number of meetings: Monday night is the Referees Seminar (I'm only a club umpire, but sometimes when our referee is absent at our tournaments I become the acting referee), Tuesday night is the Tournament Director and Club Administrator Gala, Wednesday night is the Meet the CEO Townhall, Thursday night is the Hall of Fame Banquet, and Friday night is the Finals!

As to the 755 players competing, I like that number - not only is it how many home runs Hank Aaron hit, but it's how I remember how many backhands I hit in a row with Ben Nisbet at the 1978 Seemiller Camp in Pittsburgh - 2755!

Korea Open
Here's the home page for the event to be held in Busan, Korea, July 2-7.

Pan Am Junior Championships
Here's the home page for the event that starts today, June 24-29, in Cancun, Mexico. USA Boys' Team is Victor Liu, Michael Tran, Sharon Alguetti, and Nikhil Kumar. USA Girls' Team is Rachel Sung, Rachel Yang, Amy Wang, and Crystal Wang. Here's Victor Liu training there (21 sec). 

Top Ten Reasons You Might Not Be as Good at Table Tennis as You Could Be

  1. You don't think you have enough talent, when long-term training almost always overcomes any such lack of talent.
  2. You've mistaken your bad playing habits for playing style.
  3. You have faced really good serves and yet have made no serious attempt to learn them yourself.
  4. You are too nervous in tournament or league matches because you've never studied Sports Psychology.
  5. You have the physical fitness of a couch potato.
  6. You don't practice as much as you should - which not only would make you better, but will improve your physical fitness.
  7. You mostly play games instead of doing drills that focus on specific aspects of the game you need to work on.
  8. You are strongly opinionated about how the game is played and so don't learn from coaches and top players.
  9. You've developed playing habits that allow you to win now against players around your level, but don't work well against stronger players, and you simply can't bring yourself to change the way you play and risk losing against your peers.
  10. You have nice strokes but don't really know how to use them. See Tip above (Learning to Win), or perhaps a book on Tactics - like Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!

Last Week's Coaching and Boy Is My Arm Sore!
We had a special session on Sunday just for the junior players from MDTTC going to the Nationals. I had a simple task - they rotated about so I served to all of them, so they could work on their receive. I ended up doing this for 70 minutes straight!!! (Other coaches also served to them.) About five minutes into it I went to my bag and got the old armband I used to wear when I had arm problems, and it basically saved me - without it, my are would have been INJURED instead of SORE. (My arm is actually okay now, thanks to that armband.) The kids got great practice out of it as I gave them the full variety of serves - short, half-long (so second bounce is right near the edge), long, with lots and Lots and LOTS of variation. After that we did another interesting drill, where the player served backspin or no-spin, and I intentionally pushed back high so they could work on their put-away skills. So often us coaches have them work on attacking off good pushes that we forget that in matches they get lots of WEAK pushes, and need to be super consistent in putting them away.

In the final session of the Thursday Beginning Class, we mostly did player's choice, where the player gets to choose what to work on. In the Sunday Beginning Class, we had a general practice session, where we reviewed and did many past drills, mostly footwork drills.

Reads on Blog and Tip
I'm astounded, flattered, and humbled by the number of reads this blog now gets. Last week's blog so far has 8645 reads, while last week's Tip, Six-Step Training Progression, so far has 7028.

Recent Tribulations
Recently I've faced five huge problems. First, my car, a 1998 Toyota Corolla that I hope will last forever (or until they have affordable self-driving cars), had a number of problems, and I had to pay $900 for repairs. My computer pretty much died, and so I had to get a new one - and that was a big hassle, though John Olsen helped tremendously with advice and coming over to fix some problems. (But the nice part is I now have a HUGE 34" screen!) But I could no longer run Pagemaker on the new computer (it's way outdated), and I've been using the program for decades, and still use it for creating both Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis books and the annual program for the USATT Hall of Fame Banquet. So I had to learn a new program, Microsoft Publisher, which I used for the 2019 USATT Hall of Fame program booklet, which I finalized a few days ago and sent to the HoF president, Sean O'Neill. Then I had a number of dental problems on two teeth, one of which needed a root canal, and both needed crowns - so I've been to the dentist four times recently and spent about $1500 on this. Plus, I own a three-floor townhouse where I live on the third floor and rent out the first two - and my previous tenant left, so I had to go through a bunch of hassle finding new ones. (They moved in on Friday.) But all of these hassles are now done, and it's easy sailing forever from now on, right?

I Have a BUSY Travel Schedule Coming Up

  • June 30 – July 5: Coaching at the U.S. National Championships in Las Vegas
  • July 6: Visiting Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon
  • July 13-14: Readercon Science Fiction Convention in Boston
  • July 15-18: Touring the sites of Boston - Freedom Trail, JFK Library, the Museums of Fine Arts and Science, New England Aquarium, Franklin Park Zoo, USS Constitution and Bunker Hill, and perhaps even one or more of the three full-time clubs in the area - Boston TTA, Boston TTC, and Massachusetts TT and Badminton Club.
  • July 19-27: My annual 9-day Science Fiction Writing Workshop vacation in Manchester, NH
  • Aug. 10-11: Helping to run the Maryland Open (though Klaus Wood and Greg Mascialino are now the directors)
  • Aug. 13-14, 20: Touring Ireland
  • Aug. 15-19: World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin, Ireland
  • Aug. 21 – late September – once-in-a-lifetime tour of Europe – England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Poland, Austria, Greece, Egypt. Will visit lots of historical sites, but also plan to stop by ITTF headquarters and perhaps a few table tennis clubs, and maybe a Bundesliga match in Germany. I've been to Asia a number of times as a table tennis coach or writer, but embarrassingly, I've never been to Europe or Africa (of which Egypt is a part). But I've been to all 50 U.S. states! Someday I'll have another "Once in a lifetime trip" where I'll finally visit South America, Australia, and maybe even Antarctica. I wonder if I'd be the best table tennis player ever in Antarctica?
  • Oct. 3 - Back to coaching group sessions at MDTTC!

Hitler's Last Secretary and Ping-Pong
I recently read Hitler's Last Secretary, the memoir of Traudl Junge, who was his secretary the last two and a half years of his life. I read the book both as research for a science fiction time travel alternate history mind transfer story I was writing (SF is my outside TT interest - I have four novels and have sold 103 short stories), but also because I'm a history aficionado. Hitler's a major character in the story, but don't worry - it won't end well for him! In fact, there's a great scene near the end where Hitler, Stalin, and Chairman Mao are all in a room together and . . . well, you'll just have to wait until I sell it and it gets published to find out what happens!

On page 91, she talks about the most embarrassing thing that happened to her during her time as Hitler's secretary. In 1938 Hitler had a summit at The Wolf's Lair (where he ran much of World War II from), with King Boris of Bulgaria, Marshal Antonescu of Romania, Reich Regent Horthy of Hungary, and President Tiso of Slovakia. Thinking the events for the day were over, she entered from a back door and into the main hall, only to find she had burst right into the middle of a ceremonial procession of Hitler and his guests! She wrote of it, "I was holding an apple I'd just bitten into in my right hand, and two ping-pong bats in my other hand. My mouth was full too, so there was nothing I could say or do. Hitler and his guests looked at me in some surprise, but not unkindly, and I hurried off to my room feeling embarrassed. When the Führer greeted me before dinner that evening, I apologized and he said, in very friendly tones, 'Don't worry, child, kings are only human too.'" So from this we learn that they must have had a ping-pong table there!

New from EmRatThich

The Easiest Way to Instantly Improve at Table Tennis
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak, which features ball placement.

Between Points
Here's the article on what you should and should not think about between points, by Samson Dubina.

Training Video: Coach Li of New York International Table Tennis Center
Here's the article and video (1:31).

Alternate Ways of Training for Table Tennis
Here's the video (60 sec) with various types of physical training for table tennis.

ITTF Coaching Courses in the U.S.
Here is the listing. There are four coming up:

Reading the Game
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

China's Xu Xin
He's #3 in the world, former #1, and seems to be in the news a lot recently.

Japan Open Highlights

Wu Hopeful to Lock Down Elusive Title
Here's the article on Wu Yue, by Matt Hetherington.

Seeking One Step Higher, Sharon Alguetti and Amy Wang
Here's the ITTF article on the two USA stars.

Hopes Selection Camp Marks Beginning of Hopes 2.0 Pathway
Here's the ITTF article on the Hopes camp held in Shanghai, China, June 4-11. Two USA kids qualified and attended, Nandan Naresh and Emily Tan, and USA Coach Ma Tianyue was one of the eleven coaches.

Incheon Provides Excellent Preparation for Pan Am Juniors
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington on the training camp held in Incheon, South Korea. "Along with National Team Coaches Gao Jun and Qi Wei, the 8 players from the USA joined with players from Canada and top Korean juniors from their national team to prepare."

The LA Club Where Table Tennis Never Sleeps
Here's the article on the LATTA, by Matt Hetherington.

WAB Club Feature: Seattle Pacific Table Tennis Club
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

National Collegiate Table Tennis June Newsletter
Here it is.

National Senior Games
The table tennis portion was held last week, June 19-21 (Wed-Fri) in Albuquerque, NM, with 464 players! Here are complete results, care of Omnipong. I trained two of the players, John Olsen and Kevin Walton, with two hours of multiball training on Saturdays for about two months before the tournament, and they did pretty well - they got the bronze in 50-54 Men's Doubles, and John got a silver in 60-64 Mixed Doubles (with Ergita Maclaughlin). Kevin finished fifth in 50-54 Men's Singles. (Note - you can play down in doubles, which is why John could play in 50-54 Men's Doubles.)

The 2019 Endeavor Games
Here's the article on the tournament in Edmond, OK, by Christian Lillieroos, with results and photos.

Denver Table Tennis Alliance’s 5th MENSUAL Tourney
Here's the article and results.

Ping Pong Diplomacy: Korea United
Here's the video (10:02).

Ping-Pong Literacy
Here's the video (4:24) - this seems to be an animated ping-pong playing sheep that teaches children things like how to safely cross the road, about the five senses, shapes, about animal sounds, and so on.

Tiny Dinosaur or Lefty Iguana?
Here's the latest ping-pong playing dinosaurian reptilian - not sure which - by Mike Mezyan. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) So who would win between this newcomer and the reigning Iguana Champ?

Cheating at Table Tennis
Here's the cartoon!

Most Hilarious Match Ever Between Jörgen Persson & Timo Boll
Here's the video (1:45)!

Serves That Cannot Be Returned
Here's the video (32 sec)!

Ping Pong War
Here's the anime cartoon (66 sec)!

New ITTF Method for Increasing Ball Size Again.
Here's the video (15 sec)!

Send us your own coaching news!

June 17, 2019

Tip of the Week
Six-Step Training Progression. (This is an old article that I never used as a Tip, so I did some updating.)

Weekend Coaching
In our Thursday Beginning Class, we introduced the players to forehand looping - or, for most of them, rolling the ball with topspin. For some of the more advanced ones we had them both looping and following it up with a smash. (Key issue: drop shoulder some for loop, keep up for smash.) We also did some service practice.

On Saturday I fed multiball for two hours to John Olsen and Kevin Walton, getting them ready for the table tennis events at the World Senior Games in Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 19-21. We've been doing this most Saturdays for the last two months. We finish each session with me serving to them so they can work on receive, about 7 minutes each.

In the Sunday Beginning Class we introduced them to random drills. The main drill was putting the ball randomly to the forehand or backhand, and they had to correctly react, not anticipate.

In the advanced Talent Program we had our last session of the season, and held a practice tournament, followed by a party. Here's a group picture (and here's the non-Facebook version). The highlight was when I brought out the huge quantities of bubble wrap that our trophies came packed in. The kids put them on the floor in a long row - almost the length of the club! - and took turns running across, stomping on them. It was like firecrackers going off. Many of them will be traveling to Las Vegas early next week for a five-day training camp we're running there before the Nationals. (Afterwards, most will spend the summer training at the MDTTC Summer Camps.)

You Can't Please Everyone!
A while back a number of USATT people were unhappy with me when I disagreed with the USATT High Performance Director (Jörg Bitzigeio) and High Performance Committee over some of our national team selection procedures. Last week in my blog I praised Jörg for finding training and playing positions for our top players and juniors in overseas professional leagues - and, of course, some people on "the other side" were unhappy with that. I hope we're not about to turn into a two-party system!!!

But criticism comes with blogging. Here's a doozy - in my May 20 blog I wrote about Virginia Sung, the new USATT CEO. My intro statement about her was the following:

"I knew her from many years ago, but mostly as a seemingly very shy junior after she moved to the U.S. from China at age 14, when her English wasn't so good. (She's very fluent now, almost no accent.) She lived and trained here in Maryland for a couple of years; I had a few practice sessions with her. (She's a chopper.) She and I spoke for nearly an hour at the U.S. Open in December, and she seemed almost a different person - far more outgoing, highly savvy on current table tennis issues, and obviously very enthusiastic about the possibility of being the USATT CEO and leading our sport into a new era."

Afterwards I received an email from a lawyer (not related to Virginia or USATT in any way) that demanded I "Retract or delete the sexist, chauvinistic, agist comments describing Virginia Sung as a 'little Chinese girl' who 'didn't speak good English.'" Okay. First, I didn't say the things he quoted me as saying. Second, nothing I wrote was "sexist, chauvinistic, agist (sic)." But this type of drivel is often the norm when you are in a public position.

Japan Open
Here's the home page for the event held in Sapporo, Japan, June 12-16, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Xu Xin wins Triple Crown and a Clean Sweep for China! Here's the Japan Open Recap by Steve Hopkins.

Exclusive Interview | Liu Guoliang Talks China vs Japan Rivalry
Here's the ITTF video (6:02) with the Chinese coach and former superstar, in Chinese with English subtitles.

Coach Opening Position in Northern California
Fremont Table Tennis Academy (FTTA), a USA Table Tennis National Center of Excellence situated in the San Francisco Bay Area, is looking for a new coach to join its coaching team. FTTA is one of the top performing clubs in the nation with group and private lessons given daily to students, mainly kids but also adults, of various levels. A new coach can be part-time or full-time and should be able to deal effectively with kids. There are many upcoming kids aged between 6-15 years old who are looking to improve and playing seriously. If interested, please email FTTA Owner Shashin Shodhan at

Understanding the Purpose to a Table Tennis Training Drill
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

How Important is Multi-Ball in Table Tennis?
Here's the article and video (76 sec) by Eli Baraty.

Beat Your Opponent with Quick Counter Topspins – with Paul Drinkhall
Here's the video (5:35) from Tom Lodziak.

How to Warm Up Correctly
Here's the article by EmRatThich.

Dumb Questions
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

The Little Lunch Nutrition Plan for Serious Table Tennis Players
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Tomokazu Forehand Slowmotion: Rotate the Whole Body
Here's the video (37 sec) of the 15-year-old world #4 from Japan. (He turns 16 in ten days, June 27.)

Coaching Videos from Jason and Alex Piech
These videos feature this fantastic coaching duo from Rogers, Arkansas - ages 12 and 9, and already rated 1746 and 1552! I linked to the Forehand video last week; the Backhand video is new.

Footwork Drills on Cut-Down Table
Here's the video (18 sec) where the table has been cut so players have to hit the ball to specific spots!

Las Vegas Referee Seminar
Here's the info page on the seminar to be held Monday, July 1, at the U.S. Nationals.

Hoarfrost Fondly Recalls Barnstorming Tours as Teenage Prodigy
Here's the USATT article.

Ping-Pong Diplomacy and US-China Relations: The Game and the Players That Changed the Course of History
Here's the article from the South China Morning Post, featuring Judy Bochenski Hoarfrost.

History of USATT – Volume 22
Here is Chapter 26 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, subtitled "International Play." Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 22 is 469 pages with 1447 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1996-97 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Maryland Crowns a New State Champion
Here's the article by Klaus Wood. (I added this to last week's blog one day late.)

Sky High June Open
Here's the article and results of the tournament in Aurora, Colorado, by Richard McAfee. In other Aurora news, Table Tennis Will Be on Display at Aurora Games.

WAB Club Feature: My Table Tennis Club
Here's the article on this Toronto club by Steve Hopkins.

Table Tennis Star From United Christian College in Hong Kong Proves Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Diagnosis Is No Barrier to Sporting Success
Here's the article from the South China Morning Post.

Westchester Table Tennis Center May 2019 Open Singles Final - Eugene Wang vs Kazeem Makanjuola
Here's the video (22:20).

Arnaud TTBelgiumTV VS Schlager and Kreanga Kalinikos @ Legends Tour
Here's the video (6:13).

Sid and Nandan Naresh on the Pickler and Ben Show
Here's the video (5:12) of the two junior stars.

Unimagined Talents of our Top Players: Yue Wu Bounces Ball Against Table Side
Here's the video (18 sec) of the USA team member.

2019 Star Elite Team Building Camp - The Table Tennis Dance!
Here's the video (3:34).

Grandma's Pong Trick Shots
Here's the video (3:21)!

Send us your own coaching news!

June 10, 2019

Tip of the Week
Should You Play Differently at Deuce?

USA Players Training and Competing in Europe
Here are two new articles on this, both by Matt Hetherington:

This is HUGE news - from the first article, we now have 23 USA players, mostly juniors or under 20, all training and playing in Europe (mostly Germany), representing clubs in professional leagues. This is GREAT news, and here's why.

I've always thought that for a USA players to reach the highest levels, either USATT needs to find a way to set up professional leagues across the country (very difficult and expensive, and you have to attract lots of top overseas players to raise the level), or we need to send our players overseas to those professional leagues. Since we can't get do the former, we are now doing the latter. When USATT was looking to hire High Performance Directors twice in the last few years, I had one very strong recommendation - that we include in the job description that the HPD would be in charge of finding overseas opportunities for our top players and juniors.

You can get good training in the U.S., but to really reach your highest potential, you have to train and compete regularly at a high level - and by far the best way to do that is to be part of a team that trains together, with regular professional league matches. The best U.S.-born players in modern history all went this route, training in Europe as part of a team representing a club - Dan Seemiller, Eric Boggan, Sean O'Neill, Jim Butler, and in recent years, Kanak Jha. (Those five have combined for 19 U.S. Men's Singles titles, and some pretty good international results.) And now we have 23 of them doing this! Just think about their training situation - they are on a team that works together to improve as they strive to win those professional league matches. It gives them incredible incentive to work hard and improve as they train full-time with two, maybe three sessions per day, plus physical training.

I wrote a few years ago that the U.S. had the strongest group of players in the mini-cadet range in our history, and it wasn't even close - and now that generation is getting some serious overseas training. This bodes well for our future. Our HPD, Jörg Bitzigeio, has done a lot of things, but in my mind, connecting these players with these overseas opportunities could end up being the most consequential one.

Summer Training Camps in the U.S.
There are lots of clubs running training camps this summer. Some are mostly for kids, others for all ages. Here is a listing of some of the major ones. I put a note in my blog last week asking for clubs running camps to let me know. Only a few responded. Those, and a few others I know about (I did some quick browsing of major clubs looking for camp info), are listed below. I'm sure there are many others - if you email me with a link, I'll add it to the list below.

  • Maryland Table Tennis Center, Gaithersburg, MD. This is my club, but since I will be traveling most of July and August, and we have nine full-time coaches and a number of part-time ones, I'm not really needed. We will be running camps every week all summer, Mon-Fri, starting June 17 and ending Aug. 30, except for the week of the U.S. Nationals (July 1-5). Camps are primarily for kids of all ages, but all ages are welcome. Other coaches include Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Wang Qingliang, Bowen Chen, Jeffrey Zeng Xun, Martin Jezo, Lidney Castro, and others.
  • Dan Seemiller Camps in South Bend, IN. The five-time U.S. Men's Champion will be running camps July 25-27 and Aug. 22-24.
  • Ohio Mega Camps in Akron, OH, June 20 - Aug. 9, with Samson Dubina and others.
  • Farmington Hills TTC in Farmington Hills, MI, runs four five-day camps this summer.
  • Lily Yip TTC in Dunellen, NJ, runs camps all summer, June 10 to Aug. 30. Here is their registration form.
  • Triangle TTC in Morrisville, NC, runs camps all summer, June 12 - Aug. 23. These camps focus on table tennis, but also have basketball, soccer, badminton, dodgeball, cricket, and board games.
  • Atlanta TTA in Atlanta, GA, runs camps most of the summer, June 3 - Aug. 2.
  • World Champions Academy in Santa Clara, CA, runs camps June 10-14, 17-21, and 24-28, with coaches Li Zhenshi, Nan Li, and Stefan Feth. Here is their camp flyer.
  • India Community Center in Milpitas, CA, runs camps all summer, June 20 - Aug. 23.
  • Fremont TTA in Fremont, CA, runs camps all summer, June 10 - Aug. 23, with Shashin Shodhan. Here is Online Registration.
  • USATT Training Camps at Lily Yip TTC (Dunellen, NJ, July 15-28) and SITTA (Sacramento, CA, Aug. 4-17), USA team members get priority, others may apply for open spots. Contact USATT High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio

Maryland State Championships
They were held this past weekend at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Here are complete results. Sometime later today the tournament should be processed for USATT ratings. (Addendum added on Tuesday: Here's the write-up by Klaus Wood.) 

I was still co-director, but in reality, 90% of it was run by Klaus Wood and Greg Mascialino. I did a lot of the preliminary work (along with Klaus), and helped with setting up on Friday night and Saturday morning, but after that they took over, with a number of our local juniors helping with data entry. Starting with our next tournament in August they will be completely in charge as I retire from running tournaments - after running exactly 207 USATT tournaments! All but a few were two-day events, so that's well over 400 days running tournaments. I decided it was someone else's turn, and they stepped up and did a great job. Klaus will take over doing all the work that's done before and after the tournament, while he and Greg will run them together. They have learned all about running tournaments now, and are now coming up with all sorts of ideas to make me look bad to improve the tournaments. I spent much of the tournament in the back room working on some writing projects, plus coached a few matches.

Stephen Yeh also took over as referee for the first time, replacing long-time referee Paul Kovac, who retired and moved to Ohio. Steve did an excellent job, and umpired several of the big matches. (When he umpires, I take over as the acting referee.)

I did make one serious mistake this tournament. Because of shoulder problems I retired from private coaching over a year ago. (I still do group sessions.) I also had knee problems. But I'm mostly over those problems. However, I hadn't played an actual table tennis match in over a year! In classes I regularly do demonstrations and I often warm players up, but no actual matches. On Sunday morning, noting that the top seed in Over 40 was inexplicably was only rated 1763 (though a bit under-rated), and knowing that I don't think I've lost to a player rated under 2000 in a tournament since 1983 (about 400 tournaments ago), on the spur of the moment I decided to enter Sunday morning. So I played four matches, but when you haven't played a match in a year, you lose certain things - and my return of serve, my attack (kept missing both high balls and opening loops), and my footwork (especially covering the wide forehand) were poor, and at age 59 I wasn't quite as fast as I used to be. So I ended up with a big 50-point loss and a second-place finish. Oops!

On the other hand, here's a strange thing. For decades I've worn glasses when I play serious matches as my distance vision wasn't very good. But in recent years I've noticed it getting better. I don't even wear the glasses anymore at movies or when driving. I also didn't wear glasses in this tournament as I don't really need them now. I saw an optometrist last week, and discovered that over the last three years, the vision in my left eye has gone from 20-150 to 20-60, and in my right eye from 20-40 to 20-25! However, for reading, my eyes have gotten worse, and I now use reading glasses or I get a headache after a short time.

Hong Kong Open
Here's the home page for the event held this past week, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Here are some links.

Exclusive Interview with Reigning World & Olympic Champion Ma Long
Here's the ITTF interview (5:37), in Chinese with English subtitles.

How Important Is It to Take a Table Tennis Break?
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Top 10 Ways to Make Improvements This Year!
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

How to Do a Legal Table Tennis Serve
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

New from EmRatThich

Ma Long Serve Analysis vs Tomokazu Harimoto
Here's the graphic and discussion at Table Tennis Daily. Apparently 100% (!) of his serves in the fifth game were short to the forehand.

The Science of Success (and Failure) – Ri Science Podcast
Here's the podcast (81 min) featuring former English star Matthew Syed.

How to Forehand Counter in Table Tennis
Here's the video (67 sec) by Jason and Alex Piech. (I put this in last week's blog, but it went up half a day late, and so am including it again. It features this fantastic coaching duo - ages 12 and 9, and already rated 1746 and 1552!)

Chatting with Jiwei Xia
Here's the USATT article by Jay Crystal.

Tran Triples Down and Chan Tops Group at ITTF North American Hopes Challenge
Here's the ITTF article featuring USA's Daniel Tran and others.

WAB Club Feature: Washington DC Table Tennis Center
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Picking NBA Winners… with Table Tennis Logic
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Clubbing in Atlanta
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Defying Statistics; Left Handers in the Majority
Here's the ITTF article. "Statistics suggest and of course they may vary that approximately 10 per cent of the world’s population is left handed; statistics in the men's singles event at the Seamaster 2019 ITTF World Tour Hang Seng Hong Kong Open suggest that it's not a bad idea to be left handed. At the quarter-final stage of proceedings the minority is the majority; overall 62.5 per cent of those competing in the round of the last eight on Saturday 8th June are left handed." . . . "So, if the percentage is high for male left handers, why have only three ever won the men’s singles title at a World Championships and not one of them Chinese or Hungarian, the two most successful countries in the history of the sport?"

Why Walker Owes So Much to First Coach
Here's the article featuring English star Sam Walker and his first coach, Howard Knott.

Registration Open for Full Slate of 2019 ITTF World Veterans Tour Events!
Here's the info page. This includes a stop in Florida in October. The events are:

The Great Escape! Lin Gaoyuan vs Dimitrij Ovtcharov | 2019 China Open
Here's the video (13:52 and 3:22).

Best Point of Each Day | 2019 China Open
Here are four videos.

2019 Polish Super League Final - Highlights
Here's the video (5:18).

Paddle Palace Atlanta Summer Open
Here's the article and results.

Paddle Palace Rose City Open
Here's the article, results, pictures, and video.

History of USATT – Volume 22
Here is Chapter 25 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, subtitled "On/off-court action." Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 22 is 469 pages with 1447 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1996-97 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Trump administration Cancels English Classes, Soccer, Legal Aid for Unaccompanied Child Migrants in U.S. Shelters
Here's the article from the Washington Post - and the key part is this: "While they wait in the shelters, minors attend school, study math and English, and participate in extracurricular activities such as table tennis, soccer and other sports." Wait, he's cancelled the table tennis?!!! (On a side note, I'm tempted to fly out there and volunteer - I can teach math, English, and table tennis.)

What Our Sport Should Be Called?
Here's the cartoon!

Broken Table Pong
Here's the video (16 sec)! Did termite engineers, using precise measuring equipment, eat the rest of the table?

Pongfinity Plays Mini Ping Pong
Here's the video (4:42)!

Toddler String Pong
Here's the video (27 sec)!

Non-Table Tennis - Wormhole Videos, Great White Walls, and Cadet Bone Spurs!
I had three science fiction stories come out this past week. One of them is The Apocalyptic Wormhole Video at Flame Tree Press, which is rather short and features an alien who comes to earth to sell us a video made of the Earth's upcoming destruction.

I usually keep politics out of my blog, but I also link to the science fiction/fantasy articles I get published, with the "Non-Table Tennis" tag. Recently a new anthology came out, "Alternative Truths III: End Game," which is a collection of science fiction & fantasy satires about the aftermath of the Trump presidency. I have two articles in it. One is a satire on the future of the Mexican wall, "The Great White Wall." (This is one of my favorite stories, but you'll have to buy the anthology to read it - print or ebook.) The other is "The Ballad of Cadet Bone Spurs," which are the new, satirical lyrics for the famous opening song (53 sec, "The Ballad of Jed Clampett") for The Beverly Hillbillies, a TV comedy that ran from 1962-1971, with 274 episodes. At the Soonercon Science Fiction Convention this past weekend in Norman, Oklahoma, Melinda Lafevers sang the song with my new lyrics! Here's the video (58 sec)!

Send us your own coaching news!

June 3, 2019

Tip of the Week
What to Think About Between Points . . . and What NOT to Think About.

Why Many Top Players and Up-and-Coming Players are NOT Innovative
Here's a strange thing I've noticed. I sometimes let up-and-coming players (especially juniors) practice against my serves, which are notoriously rather tricky. Especially the first time out, they miss, over and over. What I've noticed is that it is the weaker players who immediately try to copy my serves!

I think I know the reason. Suppose you have two players starting out. One copies the best players like Ma Long, and keeps working to develop perfect shots like them. This player hones those shots and improves rapidly until he too is a top player. Now imagine the second one, who is more innovative. Because of this, he experiments more than the first player, and keeps trying new ways of doing his shots. Result? He never quite perfects his shots like the first player. The moral here is that when it comes to fundamentals, you really want to copy the top players and hone your shots until they are nearly perfect. This doesn't mean top players don't experiment on these fundamentals, but the experimentation is more subtle as they strive to perfect the technique. (Many top players do develop perhaps one innovative technique, but mostly they copy, very successfully, the tried and true methods. Your average non-top player has, shall we say, dozens of "innovative" techniques.) 

Note how I italicized fundamentals, because that's where you generally don't want to be too innovative on the technique itself - there are tried and true techniques, and you should learn them. But there are times to be innovative, such as tactics and serves. With serves, you also want to copy the top players, but at the same time there's more room for innovation than with most rallying shots. But the problem is that the same type of mentality that tends to get good in table tennis - focusing on matching the perfect shots of the top players - means that type of player will tend to also only copy the serves used by those players. But here's the problem - there's a LOT more going on when a top player serves than meets the eye. You have to actually face them to realize this. Unlike, say, a forehand loop (where you can see and copy it), it's harder to do that with a serve. And so many of these future stars copy the serving motion of top players, but don't always really get the subtleties of it - and it's the subtle part of the top serves that make them so effective. (Very few fans watching top players serving really see that subtleties going on as the server varies the tricky, quick motions and contact point of his serve.)

The result is that many of these future stars never really start working on truly "elite" serves until they are older and years behind others. When they face a serve they have trouble with, they practice returning it, but since they don't connect those serves with what many top players are doing, they often don't practice or develop such serves themselves until later.

The argument against developing some of these tricky serves is that, while many are effective, period, many of them are more like "trick" serves that are only effective the first few times used, if spaced apart. But if you can develop a serve that gets you 2-3 "free" points a match, that's a big increase in level - not to mention winning most of your close games! Most established players could probably improve more in three months by focusing on developing really high-level serves than just practicing the same rallying shots they have long worked on. (You need both!)

Alas, another problem is that since players who get good tend to copy the top players, it means there are less top players innovating. The result is that there are probably techniques and styles out there that are way under-used, since the main ones trying them out are "less talented players" - and then, because they aren't as good as the more talented ones, this "proves" that the techniques and styles they are using are inferior! It's a Catch 22 situation.

Weekend Coaching

  • Thursday Beginning Class. We set up four stations, and the players rotated between them. Station One was the robot. Station Two was with me, where they practiced smashing. Station Three was serving low, where we set up two tables with adjustable serving bars. One of them was built by local player John Olsen, which has about ten settings - here is picture in a high setting (for beginners), and in a low setting (for more advanced players). On the other table we had Samson Dubina's TT-Serve. Station Four was footwork. We finished by letting the kids take turns on the robot where we set it at full speed and full frequency - basically a smash coming at your every half a second!
  • Saturday Junior League. This is half league, halve instruction. There were about 30 players, divided into three groups. I was in charge of the third group, where we played up-down tables for an hour, where winners moved up, losers down, but with various improvised rules. (For example, serve would serve backspin to the backhand; receiver pushes to the forehand; serve loops; then play out point. Or serve serves topspin to backhand; receiver returns to backhand; and they continue backhand-to-backhand until the serve changes direction, and then play out point.) For the second hour, we continued the up-down play with other improvised games, but with all 30 players in one group, so players who were in a lower group would sometimes play stronger players.
  • Sunday Beginning Class. For the first 20 minutes we practice serves, with the players taking turns using the adjustable serving bars used in the Thursday class above. Then the focus was on backhand attack against topspin, with the main drill the "Hard-Soft" drill, where the players go backhand-to-backhand, and one player alternates a regular backhand and then an aggressive one, while the player plays steady. The last 30 minutes was games, some playing "King of the Table" (we could use "King" because there were no girls in that group), and the others doing first Around-the-World (three misses and you are out), and then the ever-popular Cup Game - they stack the cups, then knock them down as I feed multiball.
  • Sunday Talent Program. This is for the more advanced juniors. I ran the third group, where we did lots of multiball. The focus was on footwork (always!) and flipping. At the start I gave a short demo of forehand and backhand flipping. They also did a number of serve and attack drills. We also did ten minutes of physical training near the end. We finished by playing Brazilian Teams.

Maryland State Championships
I'll be running the Maryland State Championships next weekend, along with Klaus Wood and Greg Mascialino. On Saturday there are six events, all rating events, and those are open to all players - you DON'T have to be a Maryland resident to play in those. (Under 2400, 2100, 1800, 1500, 1200, and 1000.) On Sunday are the "Championships" events, where you do have to be a Maryland resident for at least three months. (Military personnel assigned to Maryland and full-time Maryland students are immediately eligible.) There are also four doubles events on Sunday, and while you have to be a Maryland resident for Open Doubles, you don't have to for Under 4200, 3200, or 2400 Doubles. Deadline to enter is 7PM on Friday, so enter soon - you can enter online through the Omnipong link.

Blog and Tip Reads
The number of reads for each Blog and Tip are going up! In May, each blog averaged 5936 reads, with the last one, May 27, hitting 6811. That's a big jump - they averaged 4733 reads in April, and 4287 in March. The Tips averaged 6235 reads each, with the last one on May 27 hitting 6788. That's also a big jump - they averaged 4875 reads in April, and 3550 reads in March (the latter inexplicably brought down by only 2956 on the April 1 Tip). Of course, they continue to get reads, which is why it's surprising that recent ones have more hits than older ones that have been out there longer. For those who missed them, here are the Tips from the last two months, or just click on Tip of the Week from the menu.

Summer Table Tennis Camps - Send Links If You Are Running Any!!!
Next week I'm going to blog about summer table tennis camps (primarily in the U.S.), so if you have one, email me with a link to online info!

Hong Kong Open
Here's the home page for the event to be held June 4-9. Preliminaries (June 4-5) start tomorrow.

China Open
Here's the home page for the event held in Shenzhen, China this past weekend, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Here are some headline stories:

2019 ITTF North American Hopes Week and Challenge
Here's the USATT info page on the Camp and Tournament, held at the Broward TTC in Florida, May 27 - June 2, with links to results.

New from Samson Dubina

Training with Panagiotis Gionis (defense) and Kreanga Kalinikos
Here's the video (17:22), from Arnaud Scheen.

New from EmRatThich

How to Forehand Counter in Table Tennis
Here's the video (67 sec) by Jason and Alex Piech. (I added this late, and so will include in next week's blog, including any new videos by this fantastic coaching duo - ages 12 and 9, and already rated 1746 and 1552!)

Patrick O'Neill Obituary (1941 - 2019)
Here's the USATT Obituary. Pat was a USATT Vice President and father of five-time Men's Champion and 2-time Olympian Sean O'Neill.

USATT Website Under Maintenance
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

The Table Tennis Underground
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Westchester Ready, Entries Open for Inaugural ITTF 2019 Parkinson’s World Championships
Here's the ITTF article.

Ryu Seung-min Elected KTTA President
Here's the ITTF article. He was the 2004 Olympic Men's Singles Gold Medalist for South Korea.

Solidarity Through Table Tennis
Here's the ITTF article.

History of USATT – Volume 22
Here is Chapter 24 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, subtitled "Voices Heard." Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 22 is 469 pages with 1447 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1996-97 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Incredible Point Between Jun Mizutani and Timo Boll
Here's the video (41 sec)!

Ball Tracking Technology in Table Tennis
Here's the ITTF video (1:36) from the 2019 China Open.

"Hill" Pong?
Here's the video (54 sec) as Tawny Banh takes on challengers on a slanting table!

Camping Pong
Here's the cartoon!

Mickey Mouse and His Ping-Pong Weapon
Here's the cartoon - "I have a PING-PONG PADDLE, and I'm not afraid to use it!"

Send us your own coaching news!

May 28, 2019

Tip of the Week
Why You Should Develop a Backhand Loop.

USATT Leaders and Editors
I've just spent an incredible amount of time compiling three lists. It involved going through the USATT Minutes, going through piles of old magazines and Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis (especially Volume 17, 1989-1990, page 272, which had lists of USATT presidents and editors), and getting info from Tim Boggan, Sheri Cioroslan (formerly Pittman), and Doru Gheorghe. If you find any corrections, please email me!

As a clarification, Presidents and Board Chairs are unpaid, volunteer positions. They mostly preside over the Board of Directors, including setting much of the agenda. Executive Directors and CEOs are full-time, paid employees, usually working out of USATT headquarters in Colorado Springs, who run the sport on a day-to-day basis.

The three lists are:

  • USATT Presidents and Board Chairs. Starting in 1934, we've had 29 Presidents (including three who had two tenures), through 2007, and since then four Board Chairs (one person had two tenures). The longest tenures were by Sol Schiff (10 years in two tenures), Sheri Pittman (8.5 years), and Elmer Cinnator and Dan Seemiller (five years each). All of the presidents were table tennis players, but only one of the Board Chairs has been.
  • USATT Executive Directors and CEOs. We've had 16 (the first in 1977), but this counts Doru Gheorghe twice (two tenures), and includes Bob Tretheway (who technically was only Program Director, but in reality acted essentially as Executive Director during much of his tenure), and includes a few who had "Acting" or "Interim" appended to their titles. Of the 16, 7 were table tennis players.
  • USATT Editors. This is my favorite list, since I'm on it! We've had 51 editors. Tim Boggan did the most issues, doing an even 100 in his two tenures. I am second with 71, also in two tenures (1992-1995, 1999-2007). Next up is Steve & Marie Hopkins (46), Otto Ek (32), and a bunch who did 20-30. Think it's an easy job? Look at the tenures of all the editors who came just before and just after me!

So . . . how many of these people have you met? Count 'em up! If someone you know has multiple tenures, you count each one. If there are two co-editors and you know both, you get one; if you only know one, you get 1/2. I know or have met 15 of the 33 Presidents/Chairs, 15 of the 16 EDs/CEOs (never met Haid), and 23 of the 51 editors, for a total score of 53. I'm guessing I'll have the highest score of anyone under the age of 60 (I'm 59). 

My Weekend

  • On Thursdays I teach a Beginning Class, 6:30-7:30PM. We had a big thunderstorm last Thursday, and when I arrived to set up for the class around 6PM I discovered the power at the club had been out since around 3PM - no lights! So I called up everyone in the class and let them know we'd have to cancel. I hung around for a bit, and then, as I was leaving around 6:20PM, the power came back! But it was too late to start the class up again.
  • I spent the weekend at Balticon, a science fiction convention in Baltimore, where I was a panelist and did a book signing. Signing right next to me was Dr. Gregory Benford, who (if you read any SF) you might know! Let's just say his line was longer than mine. I also shared a panel with Elizabeth Bear, and sat next to her - the panel was on "Characters with Agency," i.e. characters that do what they should do, not what the plot calls for. (The subject of the last few episodes of Game of Thrones came up quite a bit, where characters did what the plot called for, often seeming to act out of character.)
  • I was interviewed by China Daily. They are doing a feature on Table Tennis in America, and have also interviewed Cheng Yinghua, Dell & Connie Sweeris, Navin Kumar, and others.

Oceania Cup
Here's the home page for the event held May 25-26 in Bora Bora, French Polynesia, with results, articles, pictures, and video.

China Open
Here's the home page for the event to be held in Shenzhen, China, May 28 - June 2.

3 Weeks. 3 BIG Events. 10 Things You Need to Know!
Here's the ITTF article on the upcoming China Open (May 28 - June 2), Hong Kong Open (June 4-9) and Japan Open (June 12-16).

Chinese-American Lady to Head USA Table Tennis
Here's the article on USATT's hiring of Virginia Sung as CEO, from Xinhuanet.

The Importance of Small Steps in Table Tennis
Here's the USATT article by Wang Qingliang. (I helped with some editing. He's a coach at my club and one of the USATT National Team Coaches.)

3 Steps To Master The Backspin GHOST SERVE
Here's the video (8:40) from Table Tennis Daily. I do this serve regularly in my beginning classes to demonstrate backspin, and to more advanced players as an exercise they should do to develop extreme spin on their serves.

New from Tom Lodziak

New from Samson Dubina

International Table Tennis Training Camps
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Dealing With Frequent Table Tennis Frustration
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Players at the USA Nationals
Here's the final list of all 756 players, by name, and by event. Here's the home page for the event, June 30 - July 5 in Las Vegas.

US Table Tennis Schools
Here's the home page. "USA Table Tennis School site is your resource guide to find table tennis school teams, clubs, etc… We are here to help provide you the tools needed to create a table tennis school program in your area. We are here to collaborate with all the schools, school districts, local communities, organizations, administrators, and students to introduce this wonderful lifetime healthy sport to the masses. Click on your state below to find current programs in your area."

Player and Coach Alex Tan Zhuolin Passes Away
Here's the USATT obituary.

New from Steve Hopkins

ITTF Steps Up Measures Against Boostering
Here's the ITTF article. "Boostering"? I've always known it as "Boosting."

History of USATT – Volume 22
Here is Chapter 22 and Chapter 23 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, subtitled "1996 U.S. National Championships" Parts 1 and 2. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 22 is 469 pages with 1447 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1996-97 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Sathiyan Gnanasekaran | Ask a Pro Anything Presented by Andro
Here's the ITTF video (5:31) featuring the world #24 from India, with Adam Bobrow.

Two of the Best Table Tennis Rallies You Will Ever See
Here's the video (68 sec)!

Best of Mattias Falck | WTTC 2019
Here's the video (7:31). The Swede has short pips on the forehand and made the final of Men's Singles at the recent Worlds.

Kalinikos Kreanga vs Laurens Devos - 2019 Belgium League Super Division
Here's the video (15:32) - Kreanga was, for years, the most spectacular player in the world! He didn't have the deadly efficiency of players like Ma Long or Zhang Jike, but everything he did seemed highlights worthy with the big swings from both wings.

New from Arnaud Scheen from the Legends Tour 2019

United by Ping Pong, These Players Find Community in a New York Park
Here's the article and video (15:08) from National Geographic.

Sidespin Backhand Loop Around Net Through Duct Tape Tube
Here's the video (13 sec, including slo-mo replay) of Matt Hetherington!

Ping Pong Dash
Here are at least 39 issues of this Japanese Manga table tennis comic book, on sale at Amazon. They are in English!

You're Not Taking This Policy Meeting Seriously Enough
Here's the cartoon!

This Board Meeting Will Come to Order!
Here's the cartoon!

Me at Practice, Me at Tournament
Here's the cat cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Non-Table Tennis - Tales from the Old Black Ambulance
This anthology featuring stories of the dead came out just today, and includes my story, "Ded Society." (Yes, "Ded.") It's the story of a dead kid living in a graveyard society that doesn't know about the living or where they came from. He's 12-year-old Charles Darwin, who in this reality died at age 12 (as he almost did for real) . . . and now he's searching for the origins of the Ded! It's the longest story I've ever sold (other than four novels) - just under 10,000 words (about 40 double-spaced pages in 12-point Times).

Send us your own coaching news!

May 20, 2019

Tip of the Week
Recipe for Table Tennis Success. I had a little fun this week!

Virginia Sung Appointed New CEO of USA Table Tennis
Here's the USATT article. She starts work today. Here main credentials (from the article, and these are only a very brief outline):

Ms Sung founded and served as CEO of a number of large scale businesses in China, some with over 200 employees. She also holds a Bachelor of Philosophy from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. As a player, she represented the USA on numerous occasions, including as a six-time member of the US World Championships team between 1993 and 2001, a finalist in the Women's Singles event at the 2001 National Championships, and the co-winner of National Champion Women's Doubles event in 1998.

I knew her from many years ago, but mostly as a seemingly very shy junior after she moved to the U.S. from China at age 14, when her English wasn't so good. (She's very fluent now, almost no accent.) She lived and trained here in Maryland for a couple of years; I had a few practice sessions with her. (She's a chopper.) She and I spoke for nearly an hour at the U.S. Open in December, and she seemed almost a different person - far more outgoing, highly savvy on current table tennis issues, and obviously very enthusiastic about the possibility of being the USATT CEO and leading our sport into a new era. (At the time she was one of many candidates applying, but she quickly moved to the forefront for many.)

It's a sad truth that she'll also face some prejudices. Not everyone will accept a not-so-tall Asian woman as a CEO. Some will try to talk over or down to her. Welcome to the darker side of human nature. But she's run large businesses so presumably she'll know how to handle this and other situations. 

At some point I may put together a list, perhaps a Top Ten list, of things I think USATT (and thereby her, as the "captain") should do to really develop the sport in this country. It's not an easy thing to do as any time someone from USATT tries to do something good for the sport, they face:

  • Politics - who'd have thunk it?
  • Highly opinionated naysayers with their own (often not so good) ideas. Hopefully not me!
  • Organizational inertia. It's hard to make major changes in a sport in the U.S. that's proven itself most resistant to change for its first 86 years.
  • Seemingly weekly "emergencies" that have to be taken care of. When I was on the USATT Board of Directors, I wanted to focus on developing the sport, but we were in an almost constant state of putting out the latest "fires," and so that was mostly the focus. Far more time was spent on this and various "fairness" issues (how to choose a U.S. Team, Codes of Conducts, etc.) than on actual development.
  • A lack of money and staff. Always a problem . . . unless the CEO or someone brings in more money. Local sponsorships are much easier to get as local businesses like to advertise locally, but getting national sponsors has proven to be very difficult for an organization that doesn't get much exposure and has only about 9000 members spread out over an area of 3.8 million square miles. (That's about 420 square miles for each member, or roughly one member for each 20 mile by 20 mile square.) Why would a big business want to sponsor a small sport like ours that gets so little exposure? Why would a small business want to sponsor a nationwide sport as opposed to something local? There are answers to these questions, but not always persuasive ones for the potential sponsors.

Here's the USATT Staff Listing - I wonder how long it'll take to get this updated to add our new CEO? C'mon, USATT, impress us! :)
***UPDATE*** - it went up on Tuesday! 

Weekend Coaching
In both the Thursday and Sunday Beginning Junior Classes, the focus was on Forehands Down the Line and on Forehand Smashing. (We'll focus more on backhand this next week.) On Friday I watched and scouted our junior players in league matches for two hours (as I did the previous Friday), and reported the results to the other coaches at our Sunday night dinner/coaches meeting. In the Sunday Talent Program, we're really focusing on basics, both strokes and footwork, as well as physical training

Final Day to Enter USA Nationals
Here's the home page for the event to be held in Las Vegas, June 30 - July 5. Final deadline is May 20 - TODAY. You can see the current list of entries by player or by event. There are currently 719 players entered. Here's my blog about this last week.

ITTF Calendar
Here's the ITTF calendar for upcoming events, such as the Thailand Junior & Cadet Open (Bangkok, Thailand, May 15-19) and the China Open (Shenzhen, China, May 30 - June 2).

Slovenia Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held in Otocec, Slovenia, May 8-12, 2019, with complete results, news, photos, and video. Here's the article Zhang Upsets Order to Finish in Slovenia Quarterfinal by Matt Hetherington, featuring USA's Lily Zhang.

Croatia Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held in Zagreb, Croatia, May 14-18, 2019, with complete results, news, photos, and video. Here are some links.

ITTF Level 3 Course in Akron, Ohio at Samson Dubina Academy
Here's the info page for the course, held Sept. 4-11. Here's what was posted about on Facebook - I've combined it into one paragraph:

We are delighted to announce that the NEW Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy will be hosting an ITTF Level 3 Course here in Akron, Ohio on Sep 4-11. Christian Lillieroos will be the course conductor! This is the ONLY ITTF Level 3 course worldwide in 2019 (in English) and we ONLY have 20 spots available. The early-bird deadline is June 1st, but I won't wait until then. It will likely fill up in the next 1-2 months. Register NOW This will likely be the only time during the next 5-10 years that we will offer a level 3 course here in Ohio. To be eligible for the course, you must have passed level 2 with a score high enough to take the level 3. If you have questions about your eligibility, please send me a message. See you soon at the NEW Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy in Akron, Ohio, USA.

New from Tom Lodziak

Recommending a Racket
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Breaking New Group, First for Southern India
Here's the ITTF article on the ITTF courses ran in India by USA's Richard McAfee.

Dexter St Louis, Caribbean Stalwart, Passes Away
Here's the ITTF article.

Wang Chen and Victor Liu Arbitration Demand
Here is the Demand for Arbitration (65 pages, but main document is 11 pages, the rest "Exhibits"). They are taking USTT to Arbitration over the Olympic and Pan Am Selections. I have not fact-checked this. USATT will no doubt have their own side to this, though I expect it won't go public until after the Arbitration. Here is the USATT Selection Procedures Page.

Fort Lauderdale to Host World Veteran Tour Event
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington, on the event to be held in Fort Lauderdale, Oct. 17-20, 2019.

Jenson Van Emburgh's Exceptional Performance at World's Biggest Para Event
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

WAB Club Feature: Broward Table Tennis Club
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

ITTF Pilot Testing "Thickness measurement on dismantled rubbers" Project
Here's the ITTF article.

Table Tennis Tidbits #46
Here's the article by Robert Ho, "Li’l Liu", Big Bang. "At the '19 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. Liu Shiwen of China, # 1 woman player in the world periodically for about a decade, finally won the Women's World Championship for the first time at 28 years of age, 5'3" tall, weighing 106 lb.  If the foregoing description sounds like that of a boxer, it's meant to be as Liu is a relentless fighter."

English Table Tennis National Junior Championships 2019
Here's the article by Eli Baraty, and he's not happy. "It's truly sad for me to say this but honesty is said to be the best policy and it pains me to say it but the foundations of English table tennis is at an all time low."

Germany in Decline? Rosskopf: Working to Revert It
Here's the article in Chinese, with an English translation (and some discussion) at

ITTF Museum
Here's a tour (4 min) of the ITTF Museum in Shanghai. Alas, it's in Portuguese, but it shows the many exhibits, including close-ups of the English explanations. Here's a pictorial.

History of USATT – Volume 22
Here is Chapter 21 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, subtitled "October-December 1996 Tournaments." Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 22 is 469 pages with 1447 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1996-97 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

DHS Top 10 | Liebherr 2019 World Table Tennis Championships
Here's the video (6:35).

Unbelievable Table Tennis
Here's the highlights video (π).

Samson Dubina - Jacob Boyd Exhibition
Here's the video (42 sec).

Comedian Frank Caliendo Talks about Table Tennis
Here's the video (21:25, link should go to the table tennis, from 14:26 to 16:56). 

Backyard Cat Pong
Here's the video (13 sec)!

Send us your own coaching news!

May 13, 2019

Tip of the Week
First Block and First Counterloop.

USA Nationals
Here's the home page for the event to be held in Las Vegas, June 30 - July 5. Final deadline is May 20. You can see the current list of entries by player or by event. There are currently 673 players entered, and if you aren't there, we will be talking about you - and it won't be nice! I'll be coaching there, and playing in Over 40 Hardbat. (I normally use sponge, but hardbat is a sideline.)

Here are two articles by Matt Hetherington on players who will be competing at the Nationals:

Here's another article on the Nationals from NCTTA, Play or Volunteer in US Nationals at Vegas!

There are 96 events this year. They include:

  • Men's and Women's Singles, Doubles, and Mixed Doubles.
  • 24 junior events, ranging from Under 10 to 21 and Under, for boys and girls, with numerous singles, doubles, and team events. (This is in addition to the various junior rating events.)
  • 34 senior events, ranging from Over 30 to Over 80, with both singles and doubles, for men and women.
  • 17 rating events, from Unrated and Under 1000, to Under 2400, including the ever-popular Under 2200 tiered Super Round Robin (lots and lots of matches!). Most of them are divided into Adult and Junior rating events, so adults can avoid those way-underrated kids, and kids get to play other kids.
  • Under 4200 and Under 3200 Doubles/
  • Ten hardbat and two sandpaper events.
  • Open and Women's Para events for Classes 1-11.

But the Nationals is much more than just playing and competing. You also get to mingle with your friends and peers from around the country, as well as perhaps a contingent from your club - a built-in cheering section when you play. (But make sure to cheer for them when they play as well!)

You get to spectate as the best players in the country battle it out, with you right there at courtside. You can follow your favorites around like a groupie! (Okay, go easy on that.)

There's also the equipment booths. It's like the Garden of Eden for table tennis players as the various manufacturers and distributors exhibit their stuff on huge, seemingly endless tables - Butterfly, JOOLA, Paddle Palace, Newgy, and more! There will be unending rows of sponge, rackets, shoes, balls, clothing, books (including mine!), robots, playing bags, and all sorts of knick-knacks from towels and racket cases to mini-paddles and keyrings. Plus there's the "shirt shop," where all players get a free US Nationals t-shirt, which (for additional cost) you can upgrade to something really nice. (I always do.)

There's also the Hall of Fame Banquet on Thursday night (July 4). Come and see Michael Ralston, Li Zhenshi, and Sharon Brooks as they are inducted into the USATT Hall of Fame, and Richard Hicks receive the Mark Matthews Lifetime Achievement Award. You'll get to meet and hobnob there with the greats of our sport - Dan Seemiller, Sean O'Neill, Insook Bhushan, the Sweeris's, Sakai's - heck, seemingly half the people from the USATT Hall of Fame will be there! (Here are links to the annual Hall of Fame program booklets from 1979 to 2018, which show that year's inductees and their credentials, etc.)

If you want to be pampered, for just $50 you have access to the Players' Lounge: Unlimited snacks, drinks, Wi-Fi, Games, and a place to relax between matches. Or the VIP package for $99, which includes the Player's Lounge plus a personalized locker and a Finals ticket.

There are also other reasons to go to Las Vegas, something about gambling and shows, but I wouldn't know about that as I'm always at the hotel or playing hall, or traveling from one to the other - well, mostly.) This year I plan on doing a bit more sightseeing, perhaps doing a Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam trip or visit the Mob Museum or the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef Aquarium.

There's also a USATT Board meeting during the Nationals - feel free to show up and watch as they solve the problems of our sport (or don't)!

Now admit it - you are either going, or you are thinking about going. C'mon, you're a table tennis player, you don't want to miss the Nationals!!!

Weekend Coaching

  • In the Thursday Beginning Class we had a general practice session, with the players rotating from station to station, working with different coaches, the robot, with each other, or practicing serves. In my station I focused on the backhand, while I also oversaw the players on the robot, which was on the adjourning table. We ended with games.
  • During the Friday night league I spent two hours scouting out our players, noting what needed to be worked on. For example, I noted one player had a tendency to go off balance after looping, leading to problems with the next shot. Another was way too passive on the backhand. Another had no variation on his serves. 
  • On Saturday in the Junior League, there were a number of adjusted games, where players had to start out each rally with specified serves or scores. Lots of serve and attack games!
  • On Sunday in the Beginning Class, the focus was on pushing. We also spent about 30 minutes doing regular drills, and ended with games.
  • On Sunday in the advanced Talent program, I was in charge of the ten players in Groups 3. Lots of table drills! Lots of footwork! And then I rushed home to watch Game of Thrones (of course).

Slovenia Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held this past weekend in Otocec, Slovenia, with results, articles, pictures, and video.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 23
You can now order your copies! Vol. 23 (by Tim Boggan) covers 1997-1999. It's 491 pages with a new record of 1841 graphics! As some USATT Hall of Famer once said, "How can any serious player not buy these books?" Note that Tim Boggan signs each volumes you buy!

History of USATT – Volume 22
Here is Chapter Twenty of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, subtitled "Viewpoints." Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 22 is 469 pages with 1447 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1996-97 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Belgian Jean-Michel Saive Ends Table Tennis Career
Here's the article from Xinhuanet. Here's video of Saive's last league match (7:36), with some great lobbing points and audience participation, from Arnaud Scheen.

Retired Justice John Paul Stevens Talks History, His New Book and Ping-Pong
Here's the article from MPR News. "When you interview a 99-year-old Supreme Court justice, one who has written some of the landmark opinions of modern times, you don't imagine in advance that the subplot of the interview is going to be Ping-Pong."

New From Samson Dubina

New from Eli Baraty

New from EmRatThich

Serve + 3rd ball attack – with Craig Bryant
Here's the video (10 min) from Tom Lodziak.

Liu Guoliang on Who's Better: Jan Ove Waldner or Ma Long!
Here's the article.

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Table Tennis
Here's the podcast (48:32) from Expert Table Tennis.

Table Tennis Calculus
Here are a series of videos from Geoffrey Cheng covering a number of table tennis (and a few other) topics.

New from Coach Jon

New from Steve Hopkins

Report on the ITTF-PTT Level 1 Coaching Course: Flushing New York
Here's the article by Sydney Christophe.

Houston's Tim Wang Excited About 2021 Table Tennis Championships Coming Here
Here's the article from the Houston Chronicle.

2019 World Table Tennis Championships Recap
Here's the article from PingSkills by Matt Solt.

Encouraging Participation and Young Talents Crowned at 2019 USA Hopes Week and Challenge
Here's the USATT article by Mike Lauro.

Lily Zhang is All In on the Road to Pan Ams and Tokyo 2020 Qualification
Here's the USATT article by Richard Finn.

Van Emburgh Solely Focused on Making 2020 Paralympics
Here's the USATT article by Richard Finn.

Table Tennis Tidbits #45: Mattias Falck nee Karlsson ’19 World Runner-up to Ma Long
Here's the article by Robert Ho.

RACVB, RAVE and ITTF North America Announce First-Ever Olympic Trials in Rockford
Here's the article.

Adriana Diaz vs Zhang Lily | 2019 ITTF Challenge Slovenia Open (R16)
Here's the video (13:23) as USA's Lily (world #81) upsets Puerto Rico's Adriana (world #31).

Dimitrij Ovtcharov vs Fang Bo | Champions League 2019 (FINAL)
Here's the video (10:46).

DHS Top 10 | 2019 ITTF Qatar Open
Here's the video (6:04).

2018 ITTF Year in Review
Here's the video (2:20).

Ping Pong Literacy Promo
Here's the video (5:30).

President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart​ Tokaev Plays Table Tennis
Here's the video (43 sec). He comes in about 17 sec in.

Ball-Bouncing on Side of Table
Here's the video (46 sec) of a whole class doing it! Can you?

Sid & Nandan on Pickler and Ben TV Show
Here's the video (5:24) of the Narash brothers.

Aruna Quadri TATATrickshot
Here's the video (33 sec) of the Nigerian star!

Top Best of Blocking Magic
Here's the video (4:17) of mostly humorous blocks!

Ma Lin Poker Joke
Larry Bavly emailed me this one: "2008 Olympic gold medalist Ma Lin joined a poker table. Once the cards were dealt and it was his turn, he introduced himself to the table and everyone folded. They heard him say "I'm Ma Lin." (Okay, you may groan now.)

Best Table Tennis Jokes and Funny Memes
Here's the listing from EmRatThich!

Non-Table Tennis - Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Story Sales and Publications
I had a flurry of recent sales (yes, I get paid for these!) and publications in my other life as a SF writer. Here's a rundown.

  • Flame Tree Publications (one of the big ones) published my story, The Apocalyptic Wormhole Video, about an alien who comes to earth to sell us video of our planet's destruction in 50 years.
  • Alternative Truths: Endgame came out, a series of stories that satirize Trump, with two stories by me, "The Ballad of Cadet Bone Spurs" (new lyrics for the opening song to the old TV show the Beverly Hillbillies that foretell Trump's future) and "The Great White Wall" (which satirizes the future of the Mexican wall).
  • The upcoming anthology Space Opera Libretti, which features humorous science fiction stories, announced its table of contents, which includes my story, "Confederate Cavalry on a Plane." A physicist on a plane argues with another that anything you can imagine must have happened somewhere in the multiverse, and the titles tells you the rest - and the story tells how it came about. One of the funniest stories I've ever written. It should be out this month.
  • The upcoming anthology Tales of the Old Black Ambulance came out with the cover and table of contents, which includes my story, "Ded Society." (Yes, "Ded.") It tells the story of a 12-year-old Charles Darwin, who in this reality died as a kid (as he almost did in real live) and lives with other Ded in a graveyard, where he tries to figure out where the origin of the Ded. It should be out this month.
  • A super-short story of mine got honorable mention and was published at On the Premises. Alas, no payment for this one.

Send us your own coaching news!

May 7, 2019

Tip of the Week
Playing Short Pips on the Forehand.

Sorry, no regular blog this week. I just went through the most painful 24 hours of my life. I came down with a "minor" toothache last week, but since I had a dentist appointment already for this week - ironically, at 9:40AM today (Tuesday), which is about when I'm writing this - I thought I could wait. But on Sunday it got very, very painful, and I barely made it through the two classes I teach those days.

I discovered that if I swirled room-temperature water over it the pain went away for about 30 seconds. So starting sometime on Sunday night, and until a little before noon on Monday (when I saw the dentist), I literally sat in my lounge chair with cases of water and some big plastic cups, and every 30 seconds or so would take a small mouthful of water, swirl, and spit out into the big cups. I kept that up for about 15 hours straight, never sleeping - I had no choice, it was either that or searing pain. I went through 47 bottles of water, was up for over 40 hours straight, and ate nothing but room-temperature Slimfast breakfast shakes since I couldn't chew anything. (I also popped Ibuprofen like M&Ms, but that didn't help much.)

Anyway, the dentist mostly fixed the problem, but as he warned, the tooth will hurt for a few more days - and he was right. It's not as bad as it was on Sunday and Monday, but it's pretty painful despite the Codeine prescription he gave me. (Today's regular check-up was cancelled - as he predicted, I'd be in no shape for it.) My arm, mouth, and the rest of me are also very, very sore and tired from that 15-hour bottle grabbing and water swirling marathon.

For your weekly news fix, here are a few links:

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